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You would never know looking at 27-year-old Abdulhadi Al-Ajmi that his childhood was filled with a painful disease that led him to months of care in the ICU followed by a liver transplant and eventual cure – all in a country far away from his native Kuwait. But for the recent Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) grad, his childhood medical problems have led to a happy, healthy life that includes a recent degree, marriage and a beautiful young son.
This vision of a normal adult life was all but dream for Al-Ajmi when he was diagnosed with Wilson’s Disease at the age of 11. This rare inherited disorder of copper metabolism is a result of the body taking in and absorbing too much copper, causing tissue damage, death of tissues, scarring, and in Al-Ajmi’s case, a severely damaged liver.
Although Al-Ajmi was born with the disease, the cause was not confirmed until he came to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in 1998. Working closely with the Minister of Health in Kuwait, the staff at Children’s arranged to have the young man assessed. The disease had progressed far enough that his primary physician, George Mazariegos, MD, FACS, chief, pediatric transplantation, recommended a liver transplant as the best lifesaving course.
On February 3, 2000, Al-Ajmi received a new liver from a cadaver donor to replace the badly damaged one that was no longer functioning properly. While recovering at Children’s, he attended Camp Chihopi, a summer camp for transplant recipients and was given a laptop computer as a Make a Wish fulfillment. After more than 18 months of hospital visits before, during, and after the transplant, Al-Ajmi returned home to live the life of a typical teenager.
But he never forgot the doctors and nurses who cared for him at Children’s.
“I still remember the nurses who cared for me the most,” says Al-Ajmi. “When I cried, they cried . . . I really liked the way they treated me.”
After returning home, Al-Ajmi came back to Children’s for follow up care in between regular visits with his own doctors back in Kuwait. He returns to Children’s every three years to have laboratory work completed to check on his liver. Since 2004, he has been seen by Kyle Soltys, MD, assistant professor of surgery, Thomas E. Starzl Center, who was a resident at Children’s when Al-Ajmi originally had his transplant.
“He is doing really great. He had some mild rejection but is better now,” notes Dr. Soltys, who monitors for immunosuppressant side effects and adjusts medications as needed. “The physicians in Kuwait are very good at taking care of him. We have built a relationship with them so that he can go home and they can work with him between visits to Children’s.”
It was the return trips to the United States that piqued Al-Ajmi’s interest in living and studying here.
“Because I love this country, I came back to do my undergraduate studies,” says Al-Ajmi. In spring 2013, he received his accounting degree and is hoping to continue his studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania as he pursues his MBA.
The now healthy young man is happily married to a teacher in Kuwait and has a one-year old son who is the spitting image of his father. He has no medical limitations and is only taking one anti-rejection medicine. Most importantly, he is living life to the fullest with very little indication of the rough road he traveled so early in life.
To seek a consultation or refer a patient to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, contact our International Services team by phone at +1-412-692-3000 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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